Just over a decade ago, an issue of ‘Back Issue’ carried the subtitle ‘Liberated Ladies,’ aiming to cover all the heroines that hadn’t been featured in earlier editions. Oddly enough, many of them actually had been. I was primarily aware of Big Barda’s post-Kirby era at DC Comics, but writer Jim Kingman fills in many of the gaps. It’s fortunate she’s super-strong; otherwise, she’d never be able to move in her chainmail armour.
Contrastingly, Marvel’s Valkyrie has had a more complicated existence, inhabiting three different women over time and entirely overshadowing their personalities. Writer Jonathan Miller delves into her history. Though her birth name is revealed as Brunhilde, most people simply call her ‘Val.’ I often wonder where she stashes her flying horse, Aragon, especially since no one mentioned it when she switched to her white and gold costume.
I was surprised that an exploration of Carol Danvers—also known as Ms. Marvel, Binary, Warbird, and again Ms. Marvel—took so long to materialize. Writer Alex Boney examines the highs and lows of her career. Oddly, he overlooks the coincidence that her surname is similar to a certain “maid of steel’s” alter-ego. I’ve always appreciated Carol Danvers for her resilience in a superhuman world, a quality that eventually turns her into a superhuman herself.
Writer Shannon E. Riley interviews comic book creators Barbara Randall Kesel, Gail Simone, and Jill Thompson, highlighting the challenges of being a minority in the industry. Interestingly, this issue seems to plague the big two publishers more than the independent ones. The photos from the 1982 ‘Women in Comics’ panel are a vivid flashback, underscoring the need for an update on the current state of female creators in the industry.
I had completely forgotten about the first Starfire. Writer Andy Mangels also omits any reference to the alien Titan, which probably explains why she vanished after her brief 8-issue run from 1976-77. It marks an intriguing period in DC Comics history when creators were assigned roles rather than choosing them.
Writer Jim Ford primarily focuses on Jean Grey during her Phoenix phase, rather than her earlier time with the X-Men. I agree with him that she was initially underutilized by Stan Lee. However, when Roy Thomas took over, she began to shine. Her character has matured significantly since I first encountered her in ‘The Day of the Locust’ in Uncanny X-Men #24. Given that her evolution has now been spotlighted in multiple ‘X-Men’ films, her status has been permanently elevated. I concur with Ford: she was designed to be loved.
Douglas R. Kelly examines She-Hulk’s first 25-issue comic run. Originally created to preempt a TV company from launching a female Hulk, the rush led to some creative challenges, especially in differentiating her from her cousin Bruce Banner. It’s still perplexing how Bruce, a physicist, became an expert in blood transfusions—especially since he never repeated the experiment.
All in all, this collection serves as a keen reminder that female characters in the comic book world are anything but weak these days.
(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 82 page illustrated magazine. Price: $10.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6904. Direct from them, you can get it for $ 8.95 (US))